So what’s in the works?
I’m doing the final edits on my first book of poetry All the Gold Hurts My Mouth. While it’s not a book driven by any one concept, it definitely has key thematic concerns. Many of the poems confront how women are represented in the media, and how those representations affect our interactions and perceptions in everyday life. I have been careful to avoid writing about these concerns in a self-righteous way—indeed, the speaker often admits to her participation (sometimes joyful and sometimes reluctant) in behaviours and ways of thinking she feels are damaging to her and other women. It’s not all joyless feminism though; it’s also about love, travel, family, death and a bunch of other fun stuff.
Was that theme conscious or unconscious?
Unconscious. But not surprising. I've spent the majority of my adult life thinking about how women are treated and represented here and throughout the world, and I believe it may be part of the reason I write poetry--this daily observance of interactions or portrayals that are accepted as normal but that I find highly disturbing.
You've written about this in journalistic prose--I'm thinking of your piece on sexism in the service industry--but how does its treatment change when you render it as verse?
That's a hard question to answer. I think I'm more focused on revealing how I myself have internalized sexist attitudes towards women through the intensified, altered version of myself that is often the speaker of these poems. Also, broadly speaking, I write very differently about sexism in verse because I explore very complex, overwhelming issues by focusing on very small, everyday moments--there is something about the intimacy of these moments, and the greater intimacy with the reader I feel capable of creating in poetry--that makes my treatment of these issues feel more honest somehow. Oh, and I use a lot more humour in my poetry when I'm exploring sexism. A lot more.
Where’s the humour come from?
Sometimes sexism is so absurd that I can't help but laugh at it. I also think humour can be an effective way to get a person to drop any resistance he feels to a subject and allow his perspective to be challenged.
When I lived there I roamed shopping malls
on lunch break. They advertised Katy Perry
was coming. I sat in Starbucks obsessing.
The university kids couldn’t tell
but the men on their computers could.
I puppeted my arms for them, my mouth.
One followed me home through a snowstorm.
A snowstorm won’t stop me!
It was a declaration of psychopathy, like my moving
was a declaration of psychopathy. And that word
declaration, it was an icicle glinting in the infrequent sun,
on one of those days I felt we were living
in a farmhouse,
dinner fresh from the oven,
snow a violence spun for us,
like fate was a thing we would die doing.
KATHERINE LEYTON’s poetry and non-fiction have appeared in The Edinburgh Review, The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt and Bitch, among others. In the summer of 2014 she was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at the Al & Eurithe Purdy A-Frame in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County. Her debut collection of poetry will be released by Icehouse Poetry in March 2016. She was born in Toronto.
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